Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Underwood, of course, loves it. Let me tell you, ChuckIt is the best invention for big dog owners. I love launching that ball and Underwood loves getting it. He's usually quite good at noticing which way I'm facing with it and knows where it's going, but sometimes he misses it. Then, I have to start trekking out to the general area, barraging him with, "Look! Nope! Look! Go look! Almost! That's it!" until he finds it. Sometimes, he's very good at it, and I think, "Wow, if we just worked a bit, we could do those outdoor trials where he goes and finds a duck or something." Other days, he wanders back and forth and I think, "Wow. You're kind of dumb sometimes."
Today, he was very funny. You see, he can drink out of a human drinking fountain, and has done so at this park a couple times. I was trying to get him to get in the car, but he just stood there by the fountain staring at me, until I finally went over and let him get some water. I just thought it was funny that he remembered what the fountain was and was telling me what he wanted.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Here is the text for the mini-sermon that I gave in class last week. I've tried to tweak it a bit to make it more true to what I said in class, because I didn't just read it, but I still want it to make sense & flow here. And yes, the fonts are a little wacky.
One of the topics which comes up whenever people talk about the early church is the matter of communal living. Acts 2 ends with this :
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
What strikes me in reading this is the joy that radiates from the words. The picture is one of a happy, joyful group of people who enjoy being together and love one another. We also see this in chapter 4:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
Right after this, when Barnabas is singled out as an example of one who sold land and gave the money to the apostles, Luke seems to be giving a glowing recommendation of that behavior.
The way many people ask about this is with the question “Is itprescriptive or descriptive?" Last week, Shawn actually mentioned the Beatitudes, and asked whether those are descriptive or prescriptive, which is something I’ve struggled with a lot in the past.
Maybe I’m just slow, but I always read them and thought they were a prescriptive list of how I’m supposed to be if I want to be a good Christian. Some made perfect sense- when I mourn, I’ll be comforted. Easy. More perplexing were the ones like, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What does that even mean? Am I supposed to be unhappy or I won’t get heaven? How much is enough hungering and thirsting for righteousness? The one that stressed me out the most was always, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Meek is not a word that many would use to describe me, and I was worried that God wanted me to change my whole personality to make him more happy; to serve him better.
What I finally realized is that the Beatitudes- heck, the Bible- they aren't about ME. It's all about God. The Beatitudes are Jesus describing what God is like; what he does. God does comfort those who mourn, he lets the meek inherit big, he fills those who hunger for him, and he shows mercy to the merciful.
Is this an exhaustive list of those who are blessed? No, but it does show us what God is like. Do I need to get to pry all boldness out of my personality so that I can inherit the earth? No, but I can be open to times when my boldness may not be the Lord’s boldness and I should try being meek. Am I feeling empty and alone? I’m probably hungering and thirsting for the wrong things. If I want mercy shown to me, I need to be merciful. It’s how God works.
Which brings us back to the early church. Was their selling of property and living together prescriptive? No, because we see in Acts 5 and the story of Ananias & Sapphira that they had a choice in the matter. In Verse 4, Peter tells Ananais this about the land and the money: Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? They were not required to sell their land. After selling, they still could have changed their minds and kept the money, even then. They could have decided that they were going to keep half and give half to the church, and that would have been fine, too.
So, if it’s not a rule, then we’re being told what the church was like. It’s descriptive- we don’t have to do it.
But looking at the church in Acts, we can’t separate out the verses about their views on life from the ones that talk about what God was doing in their midst. They’re embedded right in there, like 4:33, where the Apostles were testifying and “much grace was upon them all.” In chapter 2, they were gaining favor with the people and people were coming to know Jesus every day.
God has frequently been bringing these concepts up to me lately- poverty, possessions, “my” money, community. I recently heard Dave Gibbons, pastor of NewSong in Irvine, speak, and he said that one of the steps to take if you want a revolution is communal living. Consider sharing a home, or at least living in the same neighborhood or on the same street with other believers. Have open doors to your neighbors. Do life together. Our faith is not lived out alone- we all know that we are made for community – most of the New Testament talks about how we are to interact and live out our faith with one another. Are we so attached to what is ours that we’re not providing where we could and that we’re not being sacrificial or community-oriented at all?
Ananias and Sapphira wanted to look pious while not actually being generous, and they thought they could fool God. I think that, sadly, that is how many of our churches can be described in America.
My desire is that you think, pray and remain open to what God might want to change and be more supportive of in our ways and our churches. If the awesome things we see in Acts are simply a description of what the early church was doing, fine. But how would Luke or someone in your neighborhood describe you and your church?
I’d like to take the middle line here and say that it’s both. For our times, let’s think of it like a doctor prescribing medicine so that we can get well. Are you helping to affect lives? Is your church changing your city? Maybe it is- great. Are you obsessed with your possessions, your house, the money that you earn? Perhaps some aspect of communal living is the prescription you need to look into, to move outside of your comfort zone, so that you can be described more like what we see in Acts.